“One of Father Damien’s greatest sufferings after he left for Molokai was his inability to go to confession. Two months after his arrival on the island, the Honolulu Board of Health ruled that no one on Molokai would be allowed to return, even temporarily. This was a cruel blow to a man of such delicate conscience as Father Damien, accustomed to receiving the grace of the sacrament of Penance weekly. Since he was forbidden to leave, it seemed someone must come to him.In September, a steamer stopped outside the shore settlement of Kalaupapa with the usual load of provisions, patients banished from the mainland, and this time with Father Damien’s provincial, Father Modeste, who knew the young priest, was longing to see him. As he prepared to land, Father Modeste was confronted by the captain. ‘I have formal orders to stop you,’ he announced. There was nothing left but for Damien to come out to the ship. He did, in a small boat rowed by two of his leper friends, and prepared to board. ‘Stay back! Stay back!’ shouted the captain. ‘I’ve been strictly forbidden to let you see anyone!’ Father Damien stood in the little boat, so near and yet so far. Quickly he made up his mind. ‘Very well, I will go to confession here.’ And with his provincial leaning over the railing on the deck, the priest confessed his sins and received absolution.
It is said no one on board knew French. Nevertheless, one cannot help feel that in this case the walls, the very skies, had ears. It was truly heroic: a man making the choice between human respect and sacramental grace. There is no comparison. Penance is the torrent that will cleanse us. Let no pride nor human respect prevent our making humble confessions.”
Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC., was born January 3rd, 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium. He volunteered to work with the lepers of Molakai and after sixteen years of caring for their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, he became one of them. At the age of 49, on April 15, 1889, he died of the disease. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on Oct. 11, 2009, calling him a “martyr of charity“
The following narrative is taken from The Saints and our Children, by Mary Reed Newland, published by J.P. Kennedy and Sons, New York 1958: